Friday, November 22, 2013

Two Years Ago at Thanksgiving

Several years ago my parents became snowbirds; they now spend much of their year in Scottsdale, AZ. Two years ago at Thanksgiving was the last time that my brother, SIL, my husband, and I would all go out there for either for either Thanksgiving or Christmas (we alternated holidays). I loved going out there, swimming, playing pool volleyball, relaxing in the spa, while celebrating the holidays; it was such a change from cold and gray; the sunshine was blissful. It all changed two years ago...

Two years ago we were waiting for our first appointment with an RE. (Waiting for appointments is way up there on my list of least favorite things.) I had tried several months of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, hoping to be able to avoid needing that appointment; the acupuncture helped me deal with the insane levels of stress from the job I hated, but it didn't take away the need for that dreaded appointment. After those months of trying, I knew the symptoms of early pregnancy backwards, forwards, and inside out, since I had spent so long hoping to see them in myself. Instead of observing them in myself, though, I became the first to know without being told, that my SIL was pregnant. Was I happy for them? Yes... and no. But first some background...

Growing up, my parents, especially my father, compared my brother and I at every turn: grades, activities, behavior, you name it. So yes, I was (and still am, though to a lesser degree) competitive with my brother. I wasn't particularly thrilled when my kid brother married before I did, especially when some of my new SIL's family insisted that I had to be the younger sibling because I wasn't married. (That incident happened 7 or 8 years ago, and I still get pissed off thinking about it. You'd think they were stuck in the 1950's, where not being married straight out of high school or by the end of college was unthinkable for a woman.) Due to a set of difficult circumstances, my PhD was never finished, while my brother left grad school with a master's degree. I really wanted to achieve one major life milestone before my brother; since it wasn't marriage or finishing grad school, couldn't it have been having a child? 

I was happy for them because of the fertility problems they had already been through. They knew before they started trying that they would need medical assistance; due to a benign tumor that grew near her pituitary gland (removed previously), SIL did not cycle on her own. However, within 4 or 5 cycles of trying, they conceived, though that pregnancy was not viable. After 6 months for recovery, this second pregnancy came within just a few months of trying again. Even now, after almost two years, I struggle with this; they conceived twice in less than a year of trying, while we are coming up on three years of trying. (I'm really not trying to get into the wretched game of "more infertile than thou," but isn't the definition of IF supposed to involve trying for 6 months or a year? It also doesn't help that SIL seems to get the sympathy, while I got the dumb suggestions. Having a medical explanation instead of being labeled "unexplained" can do that.)

That was probably the most difficult holiday I have ever been through. I was mad at everyone: mad at God, mad at my body, mad at my parents (for making me so damn competitive), mad at my husband for not getting it. But I couldn't show it to anyone but my husband, or maybe briefly my mother. I had to be happy, and solicitous of my SIL, and do my level best to keep family harmony and happiness. (Who me, a people pleaser?) I was miserable and would have loved to leave early, but I couldn't. I was trapped. I felt like a horrible person, insanely guilty, for not being thrilled about their pregnancy. Heck, I still feel guilty about it. The most I could do to deal with it was put myself through brutal, punishing workouts, and even that didn't help much (and scared my mother - telling her "If I'm not back in a couple of hours, I'm probably passed out on the workout room floor" was not one of my brighter ideas.) 

Last year my family gathered at New Year's, so I didn't really have to face this memory. This year, though, we are getting together for Thanksgiving, and I'm struggling with the memories. It doesn't help that I'm going nuts trying to get everything ready in time for this holiday extravaganza (we're celebrating Thanksgiving, my mother and SIL's birthdays, and Christmas all in one long weekend), as well as once again waiting for a doctor's appointment. (December 9 is when we are currently scheduled to get the answers from all the tests done in October.) 

At this point my lists have lists... and I'm stuck worrying about toddler proofing my house. I'm exhausted and have already had epic, toddler-level  meltdowns. (Oh, the irony.) Yesterday's started when I realized I had lost a $25 gift card that I had just bought; of course I frantically retraced my steps trying to find it, to no avail, and the meltdown lasted pretty much the rest of night (almost 6 hours). I've been having a hard time falling asleep and waking up in the middle of the night, and I'm someone who really needs her sleep. To say that I'm a mess would be quite the understatement. My parents arrive on Monday, and brother's family arrives on Wednesday. If you can spare a moment, please offer a prayer that I will have the strength and grace to get through this with my sanity more or less intact.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Tribute to the Husbands of IF

Now that I have systematically insulted all of my wonderful readers in my last post (thanks for coming back, by the way), I'm going to step around you and compliment your husbands. Like my last post, this one contains huge, sweeping generalizations, which I freely acknowledge. So if this doesn't apply, feel free to scoot elsewhere (but I hope you'll come back some other day). 

From what I have seen, there are a lot of Type A IF ladies (or, as the other Stephanie suggested, maybe it's just that those of us that are Type A are just more likely to seek out one another for comfort), and many of us struggle to find hope and optimism in the face of continued "Nos." But many of us are truly blessed with husbands who are patient and optimistic beyond reason (sometimes to the point of being downright annoying about it). I cannot help but think that these wonderful men are God's gift to us, for in His infinite wisdom, He knew how badly we would need them. To them, I offer this tribute:

As much as my husband drives me absolutely bonkers at times with his unending optimism and ridiculous rose colored glasses, there is no way I could make it through this without him. Thank you, God, for giving me him.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Type A and IF*

Pardon the brief post, but I keep pondering: which came first the chicken or the egg? Oh wait, not that question... this question:

Are Type A** women more likely to be IF or does IF make you Type A?

Let's face it, even before a full-fledged diagnosis of IF, a woman is likely to get caught up in charting, temperature taking, mucus observations, trying desperately to use fertile days, becoming more aware of pregnant women around her, etc. Then once doctors are involved, there's remembering to take all the meds and matching them to cycle days, scheduling appointments, fighting with insurance, and even more pressure to time intercourse just right.

It seems to me that an awful lot of IF women I know could be described as Type A, myself included. I've been Type A my whole life, but one data point is not enough to answer the question. I can definitely see IF bringing out the worst of my Type A Characteristics, so I'm left wondering which came first. What do you think?

*Disclaimer: this post contains gigantic, sweeping generalizations, so if you're offended, please consider that I was not in any way whatsoever talking about you.
** For the purposes of this post, I am describing Type A people as organized, planners, driven, possibly status conscious, and just a little bit compulsive (or should that be obsessive? maybe both?). In an IF context, the status a woman is most aware of is childless and/or not pregnant.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The No Good, Very Bad Year

You know the expression "if it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all?" There are plenty of days that feels like me. Here is a brief summary of the disasters of the last (slightly more than) year.
  • Carpenter ants in the woodwork around one of the front upstairs windows, but the wood was decaying in all 5 (this meant both an exterminator and replacing the woodwork)
  • A leaking water heater (which needed to be replaced) [both of these happened shortly before I quit my job in July 2012]
  • Our only 3 year old dishwasher was dying, right before Christmas and house guests. (Yep, that needed to be replaced, too.)
  • My husband was in a car accident in January, which damaged the body of his car.
  • Our cat, Mara, got very sick, then died from a tumor. (February)
  • DH's car needed more expensive repairs (struts needed to be replaced). (May)
  • Our air conditioner quits working... on a Saturday night when we have guests over for a day of grilling and gaming... and it's one of the hottest days of the year. Fortunately it didn't need to be replaced... yet. (It's looming, as is the furnace, roof, driveway...) (July)
  • Yet more problems with DH's car shaking. (September)
  • My car needs new rear tires. (September)
  • Robin, another of our cats, needs to be hospitalized due to a urinary blockage. (Fortunately it  he is going to be fine, but the vet bill was... not cheap.) (September)
  • Our lawn mower, which was only 5 years old, died. (October)
  • Vandals destroyed our mailbox. (October)
  • You know that furnace I mentioned looming? Well, it doesn't need replacing, but it does need a some expensive parts. (today)
I've left out some random minor emergencies, like being diagnosed with recurrent infections of the ear canal, a sting on my big toe that left me hobbling for a week (all I did was take the recycling out!), and unexplained back pain that handicapped me for a week.

I think our emergency fund is beyond emergencied out! (And that doesn't even get into the IF disasters/expenses.) Our luck is due to turn any day now, right? Granted, at the end of 2012, I was saying that 2013 has to be better, so there's no guarantee. God, please help me to trust that You will provide.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Love is the Center

While I was excited at the selection of Pope Francis, as time went by I became disappointed with him since so many of his statements seemed to be ready-made for misinterpretation, especially once spun by the media. How many times have his off the cuff statements required clarification that no, Catholic doctrine and teaching hasn't changed? But recently I've started to see where he is coming from.

Love is the center. Whatever we do, we should do from love.

When we love, do we not want to be with and speak to our beloved?
When we love, do we not want learn more about our beloved?
When we love, do we not want to give generously of all our gifts, to share them with our beloved?
When we love, do we not want tell others about our beloved? (Think of those annoying times when a friend or family member would not shut about how wonderful their new guy or gal was.)
Whoever does not know love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NRSV)
God is love; love is the center.  

I chose those particular questions because I recently read "The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic" by Matthew Kelly, and those questions correspond to the four signs: prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization. Prayer is speaking to and spending time with God. Bible study and learning more about our Catholic faith are learning more about God and His Church. Sharing our time, energy, talents, and money with those less fortunate and the church are generosity. (Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me. Matthew 25:40) Telling others about God is evangelization.

Keeping love at the center also ties in with something I've been thinking a lot about: the yes behind the no. Seemingly everyone out there knows that the Catholic church is against premarital and extramarital sex, contraception, abortion, divorce, and gay marriage. Just hearing the nos that the media and culture shout about leads many to think that all those prohibitions are mean, and that all those celibate men in the Vatican just don't want the rest of us to have any fun. Some might even interpret as the priests and hierarchy trying to control us. Except behind every no there is a loving yes. Yes to valuing yourself as more than just a sexual object. Yes to giving yourself solely and completely to one person. Yes to the mystery and joy of sex (not just scratching an itch or meeting a physical need). Yes to the miracle and wonder of new life. Yes to a life long bond between spouses. Yes to treating others as people, not objects or things to be used. Yes to the equal dignity and complementarity of men and women. Yes to putting the needs of children first. Those aren't really nos; they are yes to something better, something given with love.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Hostessing Compulsion

This is not the post I intended to put up today; in fact, I have a truly fabulous post (complete with giveaway!) about Sarai and surrogacy that is this close to being finished, if I could only remember my second point (time to go back and re-read the source material). Instead, here I am, writing about my compulsion to host and have everything be perfectly perfect. 

Please note that I am not talking about hosting the way the Rockefellers' host or even Martha Stewart hosts. However, my standards are pretty high; the house should be truly clean, not just stashing stuff away where no one can see the mess; there should be an overabundance of good food, no one should leave hungry; the decorations should be tasteful, elegant, and not destroyed by the end of the day, and everyone should have a wonderful time. I don't ask much, do I? Especially when the gatherings can include up to 20, ranging in age from 3 to 13 for the kids, and adults from 30 to 70. Somehow I expect to be able to feed and entertain them all while not leaving a mountain of dishes for the next day. (Who me? Type A? Perfectionistic? Never.) 

On top of it, my wonderful MIL (who I would call S - except there are way too many S's in our combined families, so I guess I'll just call her MIL for now) managed to raise her 4 children in what is admittedly a tiny house. To say that it is a tight squeeze when we gather there is an understatement, which is probably why she so loves it when we host. To top it off, only one of my darling husband's siblings, his sister, ever hosts any family gatherings, and she hosts once or twice a year. My in laws all live in the Pittsburgh area, so we end up gathering frequently. If you average it out, it ends up being around once a month. We host my in laws three or four times a year, and I still end up feeling guilty for not doing more. (Am I nuts? Maybe. On the other hand, that does still leave my MIL with 5 or 6 gatherings, and she is starting to get up in years.) 

One of Husbandido's brothers is off the hosting hook; he's single and lives in a one bedroom apartment. His other, oldest brother, though... Well, I've never seen the inside of their house, and we've been married five years; according to Husbandido, that SIL is something of a hoarder, and there isn't really room to move in their house. That branch of the family is also the most likely to flake out and cancel or not show up at the last minute. In addition to oldest brother and SIL, there are their two boys, a daughter from SIL's previous marriage, her two kids, and sometime's SIL's sister and her daughter, so that can easily halve my expected attendance. If I'm expecting 20, suddenly only having 10 means a lot of leftovers (and a cranky me). 

As usual, we hosted the October/November birthday party at the end of October, celebrating Husbandido, his sister, oldest brother's wife, and MIL. Yup, my gift giving insanity starts in October. We're again hosting my family's holiday gathering, too. My family is spread out, with my parents Scottsdale snowbirds and my brother's family in Michigan, so we gather less frequently. Until my niece was born we all went out and spent Thanksgiving or Christmas in the Arizona warmth and sunshine. Since then we've hosted; I don't blame my brother for not wanting to fly that far with an infant/toddler. Hosting my family is both easier and harder. It's easier because there are fewer people (7 including us, and counting our toddler niece as a full person), which means fewer dishes and fewer insanely picky eaters. It's harder because it lasts longer; instead of being over in hours, it lasts days (usually 4 or 5, which is a lot longer to keep everyone entertained and from annoying one another). So roughly a month after hosting a giant party, I am hosting an extended house party, featuring Thanksgiving, end of year birthday celebration (my mom and my brother's wife), and Christmas. And yet somehow I feel guilty because we haven't offered to host Christmas for my in laws. (Husbandido's sis and her family are going to her husband's family for Thanksgiving, so MIL is currently scheduled to host Thanksgiving [albeit with a greatly reduced crowd] and Christmas.)

And so here I am, obsessing about finding just the right Christmas and birthday gifts for everyone, wondering how I am going to have everything clean and our cat re-trained for a different feeding station in time. Why am I so obsessive about getting just the right gift and being the perfect hostess? I think there's a semi-reasonable rationale hiding in there: I don't have the fabulous career I once expected, and neither do I have the adorable children I planned for. Sometimes it seems like giving great gifts and hosting great gatherings are my only opportunities to shine. When put it out there like that, in black and white, it looks a little sad, but it's true.